The weather on Monday was gorgeous, so I left work a little early to go ride. I decided to ride Candy- she continues to go well on the longe, but still struggles with tension and nervousness under saddle. When I rode her last week, all we did was walk. We walked, we leg yielded, we halted, we did turns on the forehand. She eventually relaxed and was pretty pleasant. I thought another low-key ride would do her good.
I forgot how busy evenings are at my neighbor’s! Since I usually ride during the day when I’m working from home or on the weekends, I miss most of the lesson traffic. When Candy and I strolled over, the indoor arena was occupied by a gal in the middle of doing some pre-ride ground work, two little girls finishing their up/down riding lesson, and a boarder who had a friend over to ride for the second time in her life.
The indoor arena isn’t large (maybe 50′ x 100′), so I planted Candy in the middle of the arena and chatted with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. When the little girls cleared out, my neighbor told the ground work gal that she’d get on her horse first. I joked, “Do you want to get on my horse first, too?” She shrugged and said, “Sure!”
We waited for a while longer while my neighbor helped the ground work gal with her mare. When she finished, she hopped on Candy and had a really pleasant looking ride.
That might be the first time I’ve ever seen anyone ride Candy. She looked nice! After a few tense laps around the arena, she settled into a quiet, brisk walk. At the trot, she moved forward and covered the ground smoothly, staying attentive and balanced. Candy had a few moments of imbalance and nervousness, but they passed quickly and without incident.
My neighbor told me to get on and advised me focus on lateral bend. I did, and I had a whole different horse under me! Candy stayed soft, supple, and totally relaxed as long as I kept a gentle pressure with my inside leg and kept the contact soft.
That’s hard for me. Moe and Gina require a lot of leg. They don’t really need it to go forward; they need it step under themselves and bend. When I apply too much leg to Candy, she shoots forward. That unbalances her, which makes her panic and move faster. I grab at the reins, which unbalances her further and causes her to invert. I clutch at the reins more, she panics more. It’s ugly.
When I reduced the leg pressure so it was a whisper and not a shout, Candy wasn’t so frantic. She accepted it, bent around it, and used it to help balance herself. I kept the contact steady but light, and she went right on the bit and stayed there. Every so often, I reminded her to keep the inside bend by squeezing the rein in my hand. There was no flailing. No panicking. There was just a horse who seemed totally pleasant and normal.
This impromptu lesson gave me a lot to think about. It was so nice to have someone else ride my problem child horse and offer advice. (Living next to a dressage trainer is very convenient.) I know, in theory, that Candy requires a different kind of ride than my other horses. It was helpful to have someone point out what kind of difference she needs.
And Candy looked so good! I don’t think she’ll ever be a 10 mover, but I also feel confident people won’t ask me if she’s a Saddlebred cross any more.